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Al-Hassanieh receives NSF CAREER Award


Katie Carr, Coordinated Science Lab

Haitham Al-Hassanieh
Haitham Al-Hassanieh
As demand for mobile and wireless data continues to increase, the strain it has caused led the Federal Communications Commission to open up bandwidth in high frequency spectrums. These Millimeter Wave (mmWave) bands are expected to play an important role in next-generation cellular networks and future 802.11 wireless LANs. ECE ILLINOIS Associate Professor Haitham Al-Hassanieh, was recently awarded a 5-year, $550,000 NSF CAREER Award to address the challenges these mmWave bands bring, in order to take full advantage of these high frequency spectrums. He is also affiliated with the Coordinated Science Lab.

“You get a lot more bandwidth at these higher frequencies, but it’s not as simple as that,” Hassanieh said. “With higher frequencies, the range goes down, and to compensate for that you have to direct the transmission in only one direction, called directional communication, rather than transmitting a message in all directions. That leads to difficulties with mobility and establishing communication.”

These high frequencies were initially opened up in 2015 and are available for licensed and unlicensed use. Due to recent advances in technology and the opening of these spectrums, mmWave radios have become practical. However, mmWave communication is fundamentally different from existing wireless technologies, due to its physical properties, such as directionality, wide bandwidth and sparsity. All of this makes Hassanieh’s current research timely and important.

Hassanieh plans to work off algorithms he’s previously developed to build a practical system that can perform fast beam alignment and tracking to enable mobility in mmWave networks. This will help make communications faster and more efficient and allow for scaling of the system to include many transmitters and receivers.

“With directional communication, you might not know if someone is transmitting a message to the same place, even if they’re right next to you,” he described. “If we transmit at the same time, we might interfere with each other and then when you add in many users it can cause additional problems.”

Hassanieh anticipates that building the system will likely be the most difficult part of this project, as researchers are attempting to do real-time tracking of users with very narrow beams of transmission, making it difficult to identify users. He added that while an algorithm may work in theory, “when you deal with real hardware, it’s often much harder to implement.”

After working on solutions for effectively transmitting messages and scaling, Hassanieh plans to extend this work to new applications, such as virtual reality and self-driving cars. They propose to use this same technology for communication and sensing with the goal of enabling cars to determine everything from the presence of another car on the road to the speed of that car.

“Experts are predicting that demands on technology companies are rising so fast, the current wireless networks can’t keep up with it,” Hassanieh said. “I believe high frequencies can help with this problem, but the question is if we’re going to be able to make it practical and leverage it properly and to its full extent. I believe this research will allow us to increase data rates and provide internet connectivity to many more people.”

Read the original article here on the CSL site.